I Quit Facebook For A Year And Here’s What Happened.
Not much, really.
Sometime in December of 2014, I quit Facebook. And I mean really quit. Not the “Hello everyone, I will be unavailable for (x) amount of months so text/call if you need me” quit. I mean do a Google search for “How to permanently be removed from Facebook’s servers forever” quit. I downloaded all of my data (photos, posts, etc) and hit the delete forever (figurative) button. Facebook even says it may take up to 90 days to fully remove your posts, photos, and friends from the servers.
Side note: did you know you could do that?
Why I quit in the first place.
I didn’t quit because I thought I was too cool for Facebook. I didn’t quit because I wanted attention. Heck, my wife didn’t even know I quit until about a week later when she tried to tag me in a photo and my name didn’t pop up.
I quit because I was getting really annoyed. With myself, mostly, but also for all of the silly little posts we all see every day. The religious arguments, using Facebook as a creep tool, gross photos of mangled dogs that an acquaintance of an acquaintance liked…you know what I’m talking about. I would incessantly open up the Facebook app to see how many likes or comments I got on a photo I just posted. I would even open the app just because I felt like opening the app.
Religious arguments, mild stalking, gross photos of disfigured animals or humans.
The problem, of course, wasn’t Facebook. It was the people I had friended, and my own inability to cope with regular life outside of social media.
What I learned from being away.
I learned quite a few life lessons along the way, and want to share them with you.
People are really bad at keeping in touch in “real life”.
Blame it on technology, social media, bad habits or whatever else you’d like, but people (including me, of course) are bad at keeping in touch in real life. We scour Instagram, Facebook, Twitter to find out what our “friends” are up to, because we really don’t have any other way to do it. Unless you have a massive group of friends you always hang out with on the weekends, or are part of a community (like church), there’s really no easy way to keep in touch with that person who lives in a different city. Are you going to send them a letter in the mail?
Texting has become a way for us to interact when we want something, or to see what our real friends are up to and if they want to hang out. You don’t go to Facebook for that.
What I found particularly creepy was how much people I don’t even know, know about my life. Those in the Slavic community know this particularly well: your grandma knows what you posted because her friend’s grandchild opened their Facebook feed to eager eyes.
Life without Facebook is just fine.
Despite what people claim about social media being a necessity in today’s modern world, I would argue the opposite. I have this theory that we have so much anxiety about the world because we’re constantly tuned into the news and social media, not because things are actually making us anxious. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Social media and the news make us anxious
In the months that I didn’t scour the Facebook feed, I really didn’t worry about all of the things I was supposedly missing out on. I simply didn’t care. Some people got divorced, “did you hear about _____ and _____ and what happened?!” No. And honestly, I don’t need to know. What good will this information do for me? Can I change the situation somehow? Will my knowing this information bring a benefit?
I’m not a cold-hearted person. If my friends are having babies, of course I want to congratulate them! But I can do that without Facebook.
In fact, not being able to converse with my friends on Facebook has actually brought me closer to my friends in real life.
Making a phone call or texting a friend and having a conversation is a lot more work than hitting a ‘like’ button on Facebook. There’s intent. Follow-up. Communication. I wouldn’t have the time nor strength to converse with the 400+ or so people I’m friends with on Facebook.
Not having Facebook can be difficult at times.
The toughest part about quitting Facebook is being immediately disconnected from all of the apps and services you use.
Virtually any apps, website, or service has a “Log in with Facebook” button, and makes registering simple and easy. If you’re like me and you’re logged into multiple apps that use your Facebook profile, and you quit, you’ll have to start all over again with just your email.
Of course, it’s not impossible to access other stuff without Facebook, but it sure is a whole lot more time consuming. Even when you’re applying for a job, you can log in with Facebook to populate your data!
Posting interesting things is difficult, too.
I write. I blog. I make videos from time to time. I want to share something interesting with my friends and audience, but without Facebook, where do you do that? Instagram is for photos and not for sharing your thoughts or opinions (and definitely not for blogging). Not everyone has a YouTube account or Twitter. Facebook has become so prominent that if you have any artistic or other inclination, sharing becomes really difficult outside of Facebook. Photographers post entire galleries on Facebook and usually have a dedicated page. YouTubers have pages, and most popular Instagrammers have a Facebook account as well. Things don’t get as lost in translation when you post to Facebook in compliment with other services.
Take this post for example. Without Facebook, where do I share to? The Medium community isn’t as large, and most of my friends are either on Facebook or Instagram.
Facebook isn’t evil, but don’t tell them everything.
A genuine concern some users have is over the privacy of their data. Facebook is a publicly-company and has to make money. How do they do that? Advertising.
They way they make money through advertising is data collection. They know what your interests like, what movies and books you’ve read, what music you’re listening to, what types of photos you’re posting, and the things you’re looking for online. I don’t want to go in too much deeper, but hopefully you get the idea.
I’m back on Facebook, and hopefully things will be different.
No more adding random people I don’t know. No more giving Facebook all of my information. I still want to stay in touch with those who are far away, particularly with family I have outside of the country. I want to share ideas and thoughts with anyone willing to listen.
What this past year has taught me most is that it’s more important to pay attention to what’s happening in front of you, in your life who’s eyeballs aren’t glued to the screen of a smartphone. All things in moderation.
Sometimes, it’s good to take a break. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy. And if I feel that Facebook is getting the better of me again then guess what? I’ll quit again :)